indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Brian Lightfoot Brown: The unsung Indian heroes of the Boston Marathon

Filed Under: Opinion | Sports
More on: andrew sockalexis, brian lightfoot brown, ellison brown, lewis tewanima, marathons, massachusetts, narragansett, patti lyons catalano, thomas longboat, william davis
     
   

Thomas Longboat, an Onondaga from the Six Nations in Canada, won the Boston Marathon in a record time of 2:24:24 in 1907. Image: British Library

Boston Marathon: Unsung Heroes of Indian Country
By Brian Lightfoot Brown

Native Americans have long been overshadowed by the modern “American” lifestyle. Even in the world of sports, Native Americans are overlooked, as if a rare flash in the pan, with the exception of the unflattering mascots.

Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) is one indigenous athlete who stood out as a superior athlete in multiple sports. Billy Mills (Oglala Sioux) earned his moment in the sun when he stunned the world with his gold medal victory in the 10,000 meter race during the 1964 Olympic Games.

For the most part, not many other Native athletes come to mind in history. The invisibility of Native athletes is common in major events like the Boston Marathon. This annual road race, internationally renowned, has a rich history. The even more disappointing issue is that even Native Americans, for the most part, are unaware of Native successes of this iconic race, one not competed in by Jim Thorpe or Billy Mills.

Excluding specific Native communities from which these runners represented, many indigenous Americans have never heard of William Davis, a Mohawk from Canada, who finished 2nd in the 1901 Boston Marathon. Unknown to Native America is a woman by the name of Patti Lyons Catalano of Canada's Micmac people, who finished 2nd in the women's category of the Boston Marathon 3 years in a row (1979-1981).

Lewis Tewanima (Hopi) had the lead in the 1908 Boston Marathon until he pulled out of the race after the 18th mile. Tewanima would go on to win the silver medal in the 10,000 meter race at the 1912 Olympics, however. Then there was Andrew Sockalexis of Maine's Penobscot people. Sockalexis was an Olympian in 1912, finishing 4th in the Olympic marathon. Sockalexis boasted back to back 2nd place finishes at Boston (1912, 1913).

In recent years, more indigenous runners from Central and South America have participated in and completed the Boston Marathon. Increasing numbers of Navajo and Hopi runners participated as well. Now that’s a lot of Native runners who have had some level of success in the Boston Marathon, on one of the world's largest stages. Sure, none of them won, but two men of Native American heritage did conquer Boston.

The first was Thomas Longboat from Canada, a member of the Onondaga Nation and also an Olympian. Longboat was inspired and trained by the previously mentioned Bill Davis (Mohawk). Longboat was the first person of indigenous lineage to win the Boston Marathon with his victory in 1907. An instant hero amongst his people, but a relative unknown in Indian Country.

The other unsung hero was Ellison “Tarzan” Brown of Rhode Island's Narragansett tribe. Brown gained fame when tossing his dilapidated shoes to the side and finishing the last five miles of the Boston Marathon barefoot. But “Tarzan” Brown etched his name in history (with shoes on) when he pulled away from Boston's defending champion Johnny Kelley on the final Newton hill to win the 1936 Boston Marathon. The incident of Brown breaking away from Kelley provoked Boston Globe writer Jerry Nason to state that Brown “broke Kelley's heart,” creating the infamous “Heartbreak Hill” nickname.

Ellison “Tarzan” Brown, my grandmother's little brother, competed in the 1936 Olympics, as a teammate of the legendary Jesse Owens. In 1939, through a driving rain, Ellison “Tarzan” Brown won the Boston Marathon for a 2nd time.

It's been quite some time since his last victory and he remains a legend among the Narragansett people but is sadly unknown and overlooked by Indian Country, as are Longboat, Sockalexis, Davis and Lyons Catalano. A gap needs to be bridged so that younger generations are made aware of a victorious past as we observe for the 121st running of the Boston Marathon here in 2017.

Indian Country and these heroes' stories need to be connected like the heartbeat of all of Turtle Island.

Brian Lightfoot Brown is a citizen of the Narragansett Tribe and is a grand nephew of Ellison “Tarzan” Brown. This opinion is his own.


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Tribes in for long haul as oil continues to flow through Dakota Access
Mark Trahant: Don't plan on getting sick if you're from Indian Country
Tiffany Midge: I shall joke as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow
Director of Office of Indian Energy deletes offensive Twitter account
States cheer decision on grizzly bears amid tribal concerns about hunts
Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory
New York Times editorial board reconsiders stance on racist trademarks
Colville Tribes remove council member a week before citizens go to polls
Marijuana firm promises big investments with help of ex-Seminole chair
Lumbee Tribe ordered to release voter list to opponents of chairman
National Indian Gaming Association chooses David Bean as vice chair
Eastern Cherokee citizen promoted to vice president of casino marketing
Tribes in Connecticut waiting on governor to sign bill for new casino
Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
Tribes go it alone on climate change as Trump team shifts priorities
Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties
Steve Russell: The GI Bill changed the United States for the better
Harold Monteau: Democrats lack proactive agenda, proactive strategy
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe orders 20 non-citizens to leave reservation
Wilton Rancheria accused of working too closely with city on casino
Witness list for hearing on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Arne Vainio: What does the princess want to be when she grows up?
Doug George-Kanentiio: 'Spirit Game' brings Iroquois lacrosse to life
Cronkite News: Navajo activist vows fight against racist NFL mascot
Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans
Bill for tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies advances in California
Ramapough Lunaape Nation wins reversal of ruling on prayer camp
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waits on casino ruling from Trump team
Another former leader of Winnebago Tribe pleads in gaming theft case
Supreme Court ruling poses hurdle for opponents of racist NFL mascot
Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court ruling
Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget
Mark Trahant: Republicans write health reform bill behind closed doors
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band focuses on protecting our groundwater
Steven Newcomb: Asserting our traditions in the era of Donald Trump
Shasta Dazen: 'Family Spirit' program incorporates our tribal traditions
Secretary Zinke shuffles top Indian Affairs officials at Interior Department
Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture
Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order
Muscogee Nation asserts authority at allotment where casino was proposed
Mark Trahant: Dakota Access decision offers a chance to return to respect
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hails 'victory' in Dakota Access Pipeline case
Nooksack Tribe told to close casino amid leadership and citizenship feud
Kristi Noem: Enough is enough - It's time to fix the Indian Health Service
Second hearing scheduled on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Trump nominee for appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests
>>> more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.